Commentary

My Name Is George, And I Am A Media Addict

Jeff Einstein, who co-founded EASI, the nation's first digital advertising agency in 1984, has collected his thoughts about media addiction (many of which were expressed in a series of essays on MediaPost a few years ago) into a book entitled "Put God First: A Pocket Guide to Quality of Life in the Great Age of Excess."

I read it last weekend. In about 30 minutes. If the publisher had pulled out all of the boldfaced headlines and summaries of what I just read and blank pages where I guess I should have taken notes since they say "My Notes" at the top of each page, we're talking about a long essay. Even if, like me, you move your lips when you read, you can breeze through "Put God First" during commercial breaks in about three evenings of prime time. Which I liked, because I'm generally sort of embarrassed to tell people who I only see twice a year that I am still reading the same book as when they asked last time. (Although reading the book while watching TV kind of flies in the face of Jeff's advice, which he immediately gives up in the book's title.)

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"Put God First" asserts that because we are essentially addicted to the consumption of media (broadly defined as everything from TV to email to movies to online surfing) that "time and money for all other relationships is compromised. Not only is our relationship with God short-changed in the process, but all of the other important relationships we need for healthy lifestyles and souls are imperiled as well: Our relationships with our children, our spouses, our friends, and our businesses are all offered up on the altar of our addiction to the media."

Although the book offers up a handy tote-sheet to help you understand with unblinking clarity that you (and I) are already addicted to media (spending nearly 12 hours a day on average with it), you won't get a quarter into the book before you start thinking, "Hmm, that sounds a lot like me." And, Jeff is right, the consumption of media generally comes at the expense of other things that we could be doing to make our lives (and those around us) better. That we choose NOT to put aside our media habit is proof of our addiction.

While it might seem like the height of hypocrisy to read a book on the dangers of media consumption, it is nevertheless a thought-provoking bit of writing, with a fairly painless action plan that, if followed, would undoubtedly improve our lives.

OK, Jeff. My name is George and I am a media addict. If I am to redirect my attention to other pursuits, something's got to give. The writer's strike has certainly given positive reinforcement that we can live life without most prime-time series and specials (if you think there is anything special about the Golden Globes in the first place). The holidays were so busy around my house that I haven't gotten to most of the big "tent pole" theatrical films, and somehow I have survived not seeing them. In spite of 12.5 million promos for "Terminator" and "Jumper," I plan to watch neither--just to prove that beating me with a bat is not the best way to get my attention.

Just about everyone who reads this is getting paid to sit in front of a computer nearly all day long (often actually working between IMs about what happened on Saturday night's round of dates or watching Miss South Carolina explain international relations). While I too get tired of crackberry peekers, I have to acknowledge that most attention to media is mandated by our professional choices.

But to be honest, I'd rather watch "The Wire" and all 32 college bowl games (well, in retrospect, I could have missed Utah/Tulsa in the Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl) and the NFL playoffs and North Carolina basketball than spend more quality time with my kids (or God, for that matter). On a recent vacation trip, while all of the others in the group were tossing shots and singing drunken versions of Crosby Stills & Nash, I read a book. I like going to movies alone, so I don't have to explain to anyone else why I did or didn't like the film (and I don't get any pushback about sitting 10 rows from the front).

While media may put the squeeze on my time to make the world a better place, it is quality time for ME (unless I have to take my kids to see anything aimed remotely at the "teen" market). Now that the power of what, when and where I consume media has shifted away from the big media companies to me, I am happier than ever.

I'm afraid God (and Jeff) will have to wait until I hit bottom.

The story you have just read is an attempt to blend fact and fiction in a manner that provokes thought, and on a good day, merriment. It would be ill-advised to take any of it literally. Take it, rather, with the same humor with which it is intended. Cut and paste or link to it at your own peril.

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